Social media success stories have highlighted the impact social media can have on companies’ fortunes. Yet the authors argue that there is a significant opportunity that isn’t being realized: utilizing social media to support innovation and new product development.
Consultants and academics alike have touted social media as a vehicle for developing customer insights, accessing knowledge, cocreating ideas and concepts with users, and supporting new product launches. Yet despite this promise, the authors have found that the expected positive results are frequently not realized in practice. Although some companies have been able to use social media to develop new insights that lead to successful new products, many others simply do not know how to utilize social media for innovation. Some get distracted by the diversity of input and listen to the “wrong audience.” Nevertheless, the authors believe that social media provides a game-changing opportunity for companies that learn how to develop clear strategies and objectives.
Analyzing data on the social media practices of large global companies as they relate to new product development, the authors found that for the companies that jumped on the bandwagon and invested in social media initiatives without having a clear strategy, the right skills, or sufficient knowledge frequently did not achieve the results they were looking for. Those that utilized social media sources exclusively to search for technical information saw no improvements in new product development performance; in fact, the effect on performance for these companies was often negative (due to information overload and the complexity of processing such information). The companies that benefited the most from using social media for new product development were companies that used social media in every stage of the new product development processes; they built organizational processes and structures to support new product development activity.
The authors use the analogy of summer camp, a setting where children can explore and learn from everything they do. They describe three “camps”: Camp Explore, Camp Cocreate, and Camp Communicate. Each camp offers a distinctive approach to thinking about the different phases of the innovation process and delivers an important skill set.